Over the past few days, I’ve been discussing the atonement with a Catholic friend. We’ve been comparing the different ideas our two faiths have (he’s fascinated, for instance, by the primacy that Mormons give to Gethsemane). One issue that has arisen, and that I don’t have a good answer for, is this — why does Jesus ask for the cup to be removed?
After all, Jesus knows that the atonement must take place for mankind to be saved. He knows that he is the only person capable of doing this. He knows his role in the Plan of Salvation. And yet he appears to waver in his resolve, if just for a moment. The scripture states:
And he was withdrawn from them about a stoneâ€™s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
Is this a rhetorical question? Is this the equivalent of saying “I really really wish I didn’t have to do this”? Or is there an actual request (albeit framed as politely and compliantly as possible) to try to evade part of the Plan of Salvation? And if so, why, and what does that tell us about the Atonement and/or the Plan of Salvation?